“Hollow” Kyoto bad omen for Durban deal, says African advisor

By John Parnell
RTCC in Doha

A new global deal to reduce global emissions is unlikely to draw deep emission cuts from rich countries given the scale of commitments so far, according to an advisor to African climate negotiators.

The disappointing pledges tabled for the second period of binding cuts under the Kyoto rules and the fact that many developed countries are not involved at all does not inspire confidence in a future agreement, Seth Osafo, a veteran of the negotiations, told RTCC.

“The Kyoto Protocol is a short term arrangement but the problem is the limited number of countries ready to participate. The EU has already hit 20% and the Australian target is very low so the second commitment period is hollow,” he said.

Osafo, who also worked at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and was secretary of the talks in 2005, fears there are already signs that the ADP will be not live up to expectations.

“We will get some commitments from ADP, I expect it to be weak. Those that have not wanted to join Kyoto, they will look for the lowest common denominator,” said Osafo.

The agreement signed in Durban is already “weak” says Osafo. (Source: Flickr/UNFCCC)

“Looking at the position of the US and the resistance of many of these countries to make specific commitments, I don’t have high expectations for a strong legal instrument. They are already talking about [the domestically led] pledge-and-review system, which is extremely weak.”

The pledge-and-review system allows governments to set their own targets and policies to achieve them. The reduction in “interference” suits big players like China and the US and was the basis of talks in Copenhagen that first saw the two giants consider any kind of agreement on emissions at all.

Another key component of the Durban agreement will be how a more graduated differentiation is developed between rich and poor to avoid “drawing a line down the middle of the planet” as US negotiator Todd Stern described it yesterday. The Kyoto Protocol has a binary split where countries either carry all the obligations or none of them.

“For Africa, clear differentiation of commitments, as we have articulated in the Convention, developed nations have historical responsibility for the mess that we are in and are to take the lead. This is what led to the Kyoto Protocol being implemented. I do think developing countries should do more but I think they should be voluntary,” said Osafo, who is in Doha providing legal advice to a number of African delegations.

Bangladesh’s Minister for Environment and Forests, Hasan Mahmud, said the decision “to invent” a new legal instrument had disturbed the Kyoto Protocol slightly but that it was the best bet for the long term. He stressed the deal was not only about cutting emissions.

“We see the ADP can be a most effective platform to ensure as wide as possible participation by parties looking to implement the convention,” said Mahmud. “The ADP should be planning its work around all issues of mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer, transparency of action and capacity. We need to see all of these things reflected in it.”

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